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SC Ports and International Longshoremen’s Association Ink Groundbreaking Deal to End Separation of Waterfront Duties, Transforming Decades-old Work Model

"Harbor workers trading tasks"

SC Ports and International Longshoremen’s Association Sign a Historic Agreement, Ending Decades-old Hybrid Model

In a landmark move, SC Ports and International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) have entered an agreement ending the separation of waterfront duties, a system in place for over 50 years. The deal, announced on June 25, allows ILA members to operate cranes and heavy-lift equipment alongside state employees across the Port of Charleston.

This development stems from the ILA’s legal victory earlier this year to operate the ship-to-shore cranes solely at the Leatherman Terminal. However, the agreement goes above and beyond that, establishing a blended workforce geared up to handle cargo from some of the world’s largest container ships.

Details of the Agreement

While the State Ports Authority (SPA) will retain ownership of the cranes and other equipment and manage terminal operations, their crane workers now have the option to switch employers and join the ILA. Alongside this, the agreement also entails that the union will provide operators across all three terminals to work alongside those who opt to remain with the SPA.

The SPA will continue to offer training and certification for all crane operators. Furthermore, the agreement facilitates the U.S. Maritime Alliance, comprising shipping lines, to send vessels to Leatherman. However, it’s still unclear as to when the terminal, which has remained mostly idle since its inception in March 2021, will recommence operations.

Efforts to Protect Jobs and Future Prospects

In the joint statement announcing the deal, both entities pledged commitment toward protecting jobs, maintaining financial stability, offering reliable operations, and high productivity for port customers. The collaboration aims to usher in long-term stability and competitiveness for the Port of Charleston while enhancing the port’s offerings.

With this agreement, a resolution has been brought to years-long legal disputes and the hybrid workforce model that has defined the Port of Charleston for over five decades. The clear distinction between the duties of state employees and union members has now been effectively dissolved.

Repercussions for Other Ports

The Port of Savannah remains the last significant U.S. port where state employees control the cranes, with ILA members moving cargo on the ground. The dockworkers’ union has stated its intention to challenge any endeavors to retain the hybrid model at any new terminal being planned by the Georgia Ports Authority in the future.

With the ILA negotiating a new labor deal for over 65,000 dockworkers from Maine to Texas, the current agreement comes as a significant breakthrough. It remains to be seen how wage negotiations unfold, with the union head expressing a strike threat unless the ILA secures wage concessions akin to the raises secured by their West Coast counterparts last year.


SC Ports and International Longshoremen's Association Ink Groundbreaking Deal to End Separation of Waterfront Duties, Transforming Decades-old Work Model

HERE Irmo
Author: HERE Irmo

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